It’s been 3 months since George Floyd got murdered by three cold-blooded cops of Minneapolis. A tragic event that awakened the world on something that has been a reality for way too long for Black people in USA. But that time was one death too many, it seemed!
Everybody publicly expressed their outrage on social, even though lots just did it following a general trend and without necessarily being aware of the situation beyond this dreadful event. Companies all went with their own official statement expressing their support to the Black community and will to make things change, sometimes awkwardly, sometimes quite late, sometimes just for the matter of political correctness. Regardless, the harsh truth was now acknowledged, and the long due and necessary uncomfortable conversations could finally happen, between friends, within families, in the workplace or in public. See the great initiative of Emmanuel Acho, former NFL player and current analyst for Fox Sports, who launched a dedicated Youtube channel, an amazing social experiment and a true inspiration.
Something was definitely different this time. For how long though? Will change really happen? Is it going to be just a trend?
I must admit, I was extremely surprised when I received the note from Jeff Greespoon to all Denstu Canada employees that Monday June 1st evening, just a week after the event and while Black Lives Matter protests were just starting in Canada. What I was the most surprised - and impressed – by was the strong stand that the company was taking. Powerful! It was far from being a plain statement. It was a call for action. Something I never thought possible coming from the top of a company. Not in my career at least. Indubitable demonstrations of support toward BIPOC employees quickly followed and soon after the implementation of collectively led initiatives to make the necessary adjustments within the company and hopefully make an impact beyond it, in our industry.
The last couple of months have not only been uncomfortable for decision makers and privileged people (white or not!); this has been a challenging time for Blacks too. Besides struggling to find time and answers for our friends and colleagues, most of the Black people I know have been through the same tough inward questioning: How can my reality be so disconnected from theirs? Should I know my history better? Why didn’t I get involved more or earlier in making this change? What more can I do now? How can I make sure to be at the right place at the right time with all that is happening? How can I make sure to make an impact? Should I play a leadership role?
I consider myself very fortunate. The creation of the Anti-Racism Task Force at Dentsu and the involvement of MKTG with the BlackNorth initiative allows me to answer some of these questions and fulfill some of my new pressing essential needs. Even though I was fully aware of the status of Black people in the world and I had shared some of my knowledge during uncomfortable conversations with friends by the past, I wasn’t doing much for my community. I can now contribute to projects that aim to make concrete changes locally as well as on a larger scale, as part of my job. Since the launch of the BlackNorth Initiative on July 20th, over 300 companies’ CEOs have signed the pledge and The Schulich Foundation committed to CAD $ 1M to the organization towards a Cultural Center For Black Canadians. Coming next, the launch of the initiative in Quebec with a French version of the Virtual Summit September 30th.
This is an exciting time and it gives me great hope. For the first time of my career, I feel at the right place at the right time and I believe in profound changes for BIPOC in our society. Why so much hope? Because I see our communities getting organized, creating new initiatives, BIPOC getting involved, being proactive and innovative and we are now getting moral support and better consideration too. Because I find more and more allies along the way.
The genuine allyship of our white colleagues and friends is the key to success and will guarantee deep and sustainable changes. We are coming a long way. And for those who still need to be convinced of the reality of the workplace, or if you just need to get a motivation boost on a bad day, just have a look at #showtheboard. It tells it all.